3 Firearms Training Myths (and Quick Fixes)

Summertime is peak firearms training time for many people.  Thousands of individuals, couples and families are taking off of work and traveling to great schools all across the country.

In almost all cases, the schools are delivering great instruction.

But most students leaving these classes are buying into one, two, or three of the following gun training myths…even though the instructors don’t believe in these myths and don’t want their students to fall for them either.

This is important, regardless of whether you’re an instructor or whether you’ve trained with an instructor in the past, plan on doing so at some point in the future, or just plan on doing your own things with tips you pick up online, on books, or on DVDs.

Myth #1
Training Is Practice

I want to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of live firearms training.  I’ve been to dozens of classes with dozens of high-speed instructors over the years and even the “mediocre” classes were great experiences and this is not a criticism of firearms instructors at all.  They’re given the almost impossible task of conveying a lifetime of instruction, practice, and experience into as short of a class as possible at a price that students can afford.

With that out of the way, myth #1 is that firearms training is equivalent to practice.  It’s not.

Training:  Where a student is taught how to do something by an instructor.
Practice:  Where a student repeats what they’ve been trained to do until they can do it automatically, or without thought.  It becomes a conditioned response that bypasses the parts of the brain that are most paralyzed in extreme stress situations.

Training is when you watch proper technique and try to duplicate it until the instructor says, “you’ve got it” and you move to learning the next technique.
Practice is when you repeat that perfect form at various speeds, consciously paying attention to every detail, until one day you wake up and realize that you can do it perfectly, automatically, and FAST, without having to think about it.

Training is what most civilian and law enforcement shooters do.
Practice is what elite SWAT units, military units, and competitive shooters who consistently win do.

When shooters are looking for a firearms class to go to, most want to get as much training as possible for their time and money, so they look for the class with the most credible instructor who’s covering the most “cool stuff” in as few days as possible.  (This is a false economy but that’s a conversation for another day)

Instructors, on the other hand, know that they may only have one shot with a student and the student may live or die based on the information they’re taught.  It’s a heavy burden that causes instructors to try to cram as much information and training as possible into the limited class time that they have.  I get it.  I appreciate it.  But it’s not practice; it’s not how most instructors learned and became good; and it’s not a good long term solution for students.

This approach may get students performing to a given standard during the class, but it won’t “stick” without repetition.  Most experts agree that students will lose 60-80% of the benefit of what they learned within a few short weeks without frequent and timely practice after the initial instruction.

Practice is truly the single biggest missing ingredient in modern firearms training.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty passionate about it.  That’s why I co-wrote Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, co-created Dry Fire Training Cards, work closely with Matt Seibert in promoting Insight Firearms Training’s Deadly Accuracy Course, helped former Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham, launch 30-10Pistol, and am helping Retired Navy SEAL, Larry Yatch, launch Concealed Carry Masters Course.

We want to revolutionize firearms training and take it from a model where the focus is on getting students to be able to perform by the end of the class to a model where firearms instructors not only get students to perform in class, but focus on teaching students how to practice properly, after the training, so that they can get the full benefit of the training that they paid for.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do as a student.

When you’re taking a class and taking notes, constantly ask yourself, “What points do I need to write down so I can practice this properly when I get home?”

At the end of a class, in addition to having notes of facts, figures, and how-to’s, you should also have specific drills to do that are based on what you learned in the class.  Some of them should be dry fire drills and some should be live fire drills, but ALL of them should be ones that you can shut your eyes and rehearse in your mind.

Again, the sooner you start this practice after your training and the more frequently you do it, the more long term benefit you’ll get from the training.

Myth #2
All Gun, All The Time

Most shooters go to firearms classes to get trigger time in, to shoot better, and/or to learn and practice tactics.  As a result, that’s the kind of classes that are mostly offered.

And an increasing number of defensive shooting classes teach a little bit of situational awareness, deterrence, and disengagement, but the vast majority of the class is still focused on the gun because that’s what students demand.

Again, I get it.  I love guns.  I love gun stories.  I love learning about guns.  I love shooting.  But my day has gone incredibly bad if I ever have to fire my gun in self defense.

One of the sayings I keep in my head is:

“An Ounce of Deterrence Is Worth a Pound of Lead”

And, I have to add in situational awareness and disengagement to deterrence.

Sun Tzu may have said it better, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Regardless, if you can avoid conflicts with pre-fight skills, then hopefully you may never have to find out whether your gun skills are adequate or not.

You probably realized this, but the skill of being able to avoid and deter confrontation becomes more and more valuable as you get older.  It may not be as sexy as gun play, but you get to use it a lot more and it might save you from a conflict escalating to where you have to use your gun at all.

How can you practice this?

1.  Every day, watch people and situations.  Study them.  Evaluate the people around you and your surroundings to get a general feel for how safe or unsafe you are.  Then, BE COMFORTABLE LEAVING situations when things start getting hairy.

2.  As you find yourself in disagreements and conflicts, begin the practice of disciplining yourself to add water to the fire, rather than fuel.

3.  In disagreements, step back mentally while they’re happening and “take the temperature” of both yourself and the other person.  Pay attention to the impact of the words you use, the volume, and your body language.  And be prepared to physically leave and regroup if one or both of you can’t calm down or you run out of verbal tools to calm things down.

Myth #3
The 21 Foot Rule

Two fundamentals of fighting that have been around for thousands of years are:

1.  Use deception.

2.  Close distance before surprising and engaging your opponent.

Bad guys know these rules…and they use them.

While we’re practicing being in our lane at the range, squaring up to a target 10, 11, or 21 feet away and drawing and engaging from the holster, bad guys in real life approach from the side or behind and hide their true intent until they’re too close for you react when they finally expose their intent.

Don’t get me wrong…many bad guys are dumb as a box of rocks.  And I thank God for them.  They expose their intent from a distance or are dumbfounded when their “victim” turns the table on them.

But I don’t want the effectiveness of my training to depend on an attacker being from the shallow end of the gene pool.  You want your training to reflect reality…not just a best case scenario.

“If you learn “indoor” techniques, you will think narrowly and forget the true Way. Thus you will have difficulty in actual encounters.”
Miyamoto Musashi, “The Book of 5 Rings”

It’s definitely OK to practice shooting at targets on a one-way range at set distances.  It’s a great way to develop fundamental skills.

But make sure that you also practice responding to threats to your right side, left side, and behind you.  What would you do if you were 2 feet away from someone who pulled a knife on you?  Would you bet that he won’t stab you while you take 1-4 seconds to get a concealed gun into the fight?  I wouldn’t.  There’s no one right answer to this question, but there are definitely some wrong answers and there are some answers that are more effective than others.

When you get a response, test it out with a training partner and an inert training platform.  If it works, practice it until it’s automatic.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.

And, I would deserve a trip behind the wood shed if I didn’t give you a one-stop answer to an incredibly effective way to address these three training myths in the comfort of your own home, for a fraction of the cost of the live training equivalent.

The SEALed Mindset Concealed Carry Masters Course addresses all three of these myths, head on, and gives students and instructors a framework for their training that reflects the realities of the world we live in in addition to the constraints of a linear range.

It’s a unique and innovative approach to firearms training that takes advantage of time-proven accelerated teaching and learning techniques that have only been affordable to military and elite law enforcement units, until now.

If you’re not familiar with it, I strongly suggest checking it out at www.ConcealedCarryMastersCourse.com

What are your thoughts?  Have you unintentionally bought into any of these myths?  If you’re an instructor, have you found any novel solutions to these problems?  Please share by commenting below.

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  1. Don Garlow
    2 years ago

    I SINCERELY appreciate what you are doing and the “reality” that you put into everything. The info on 3 Training Myths is the kind of info I seek. I found you with thru the ‘Dry Fire Training Cards’ add over a year ago. Like most of us, there is far too little time to become truly proficient at defensive skills. At 69, this old soldier spends most of my time simply trying to stay in good physical shape after 38+ in uniform. What helps me most are:

    1. The conceptual things such as the three myths I found in my email today. If the mind is not right very little else will work properly.

    2. The training approaches that I can use on my own personal outdoor linear range. I bought property where I can shoot because the public and commercial ranges here won’t subscribe to defensive training concepts like being able to draw from a holster, etc.

    3. In PA, it is hard to find any true instruction at a place that will allow true defensive training and shooting. PA issues concealed carry permits but does not provide any training. A lot of people carry but no one has training. (OUCH!) I have some pretty serious instructional skills and have taught many things like golf and shotgun that require hand and eye coordination. I also have a shooting background as 12 years of my military time was spent with the Army Marksmanship Unit. When I became a warrant officer, I also became a platform instructor and instructional methods developer. I have thought many times of trying to become a certified instructor as I see a critical need for really sound training here in w. central PA but recognize that I don’t have the experience that a guy like you evidences in every email I receive from you. I’m just not in the same league when it comes to teaching skills that will be used when other peoples lives are on the line. I have helped several friends with basic concepts (especially situational awareness and avoidance and basic shooting fundamentals only because they have asked me to help. Tough position…..What if I had not helped them and they got caught in a bad place and had no clue as to what to do? So I did provide help.)That being said, do you know of anyone near me who does have the skills and concepts to advance my own personal skills in personal defense training? Someone who really knows and follows your logic that I could use and recommend to others? Most schools are half way across the country and as you state above may not have the right focus as far as training and practice are concerned. You are “Right on the Money” as far as I’m concerned. Training is not practice and only “proper” practice makes perfect.

    Many thanks for what you are doing!

    CW5 Don Garlow
    USA, (retired)

  2. Jack
    2 years ago

    I heartily applaud your work in providing resources for the average citizen to become better than average in their preparation for home/family defense. I had never handled a firearm (other than a Daisy BB gun) until I decided to learn/qualify for a CHL in Texas. Thanks to your Tactical Firearms Training Secrets and many hours of dry-fire practice, I was able to qualify for the CHL with a combined score (written and target shooting) in the very high 90’s.

    My next few thoughts are more about semantics than anything else – semantics born from 35+ year in a public school classroom teaching HS band which requires a thorough understanding of goals, learning styles, motivation, and training.

    1. Not everyone in front of the instructor is a learner. Too many people are warming the chair to endure the class. A true learner is engaged in a process (not an event) of receiving, classifying, and owning information leading to a change in behavior or acquiring a skill.
    2. Telling is not teaching; it’s merely the first step in exposing the learner to critical information. Learners receive information by a combination of sight, hearing, and touch. Anything that interferes with the information transmission or reception corrupts the learning. If the teacher does not communicate clearly in the exact mode that the learner best receives new information, there is a gap in the learning process. The reverse is also true: the intent of the information must be received clearly by the learner. Thus, learning is actually a dialogue between teacher and learner. The learner must understand what the teacher meant; the teacher must know that the learner received it straight.
    3. Training and practice are not the same thing. Training is also a step in the learning process. It is practice by the learner utilizing the new information from the teacher, and it is guided/corrected by the teacher for the most efficient movement and optimum results. (A dog is trained by an instructor to respond to select stimuli and behave in a consistent and predictable fashion.)
    4. Practice by the learner is where he repeats an action in response to select stimuli (either real or imagined) until he can produce the correct action at the specified time. With respect to handling a firearm, there is no room for error. The learner must own the information, repeat the scenario/decision process, and react perfectly every single time. Practicing must always lead to a correct conditioned response, and the life-or-death nature of the topic demands that preparation for the emergency be a sharply honed skill that is flawless. That’s why linear practicing falls woefully short of the goal of preparing the average homeowner to protect himself and his family for WTSHTF.

    That’s also exactly why The SEALed Mindset Concealed Carry Masters Course was developed and, in your words above, “gives students and instructors a framework for their training that reflects the realities of the world we live in in addition to the constraints of a linear range.” It’s an information framework, but the information has to be owned and practiced to the degree of a conditioned response in order to be truly effective. It’s a last line in the sand – a skill set – that we desperately hope never has to be used.

    • brad
      1 year ago

      Teacher vs Instructor

      Teacher and Instructor are two words that are often confused due to the appearing similarity between their meanings. Actually, they are two different words that indeed convey different meanings. The word ‘teacher’ is used in the sense of ‘trainer’ or ‘educator’. On the other hand, the word ‘instructor’ is used in the sense of ‘coach’. This is the main difference between the two words.

      A coach normally instructs the players or the trainees, while conducting training sessions. That is why the word ‘instructor’ is more suitable to indicate a coach. On the other hand, a teacher is one who teaches or trains by giving information about the subject. In other words, a coach is a teacher too in some ways. This is due to the fact that he teaches the basics of the subject before coaching the students or the players.

      Instruction deals with the practical aspects of a subject or an art. On the other hand, teaching deals with the theoretical aspects of a subject or an art. This is an important difference between teacher and instructor. A teacher, on the other hand, throws sufficient light on the ‘what to do’ aspects of a subject or an art. On the other hand, an instructor throws more light on the ‘how to do’ aspects of a subject or an art.

  3. Dodged5
    2 years ago

    Here is one training tip that I got when I was a deputy sheriff that has proven valuable to me for dry fire practice. Almost all range training is done while standing or maybe kneeling. How many times have you drawn your weapon while sitting? Probably never. But how many car jackings or road rage incidents are there where this might be necessary or possibly in a movie theater or public transit or a park bench? The tip I got was to unload your weapon. Check it to make sure it is unloaded. Holster your weapon and sit in your favorite chair and turn on your TV. When an advert comes on, draw and shoot the advert on the tv. Reholster and do it again the instant the next ad comes on. Continue to do this until you get it down and then turn your chair 90 degerrs to the right and practice some more. Then turn it to the left and practice. Then do it while standing, kneeling, squatting, sitting on the floor and even laying down. These are all possible positions you might find yourself in when you need to draw your weapon and you most likely can’t practice them on the range. Although this is a more likely scenario for law enforcement, you might also belt yourself into your car seat in your driveway sometime and try some dryfire practice. It’s not easy to draw while restricted by a seatbelt. Doing this will give you practice drawing from different positions in a relaxed situation on short notice.

    • brad
      1 year ago

      great advice, I would add sitting at a table, as in while dining, remember lubys cafeteria? It isnt easy getting to your weapon while seated, AND up under a table or in a booth. i use the 21 foot rule in my classes…but it is 21 feet in a 360 degree arc. HAVE A PLAN, practice it use it.

    • Ox
      1 year ago

      I use a SIRT pistol when I do it, but I do something very similar.

      I change my triggers from show to show, but on “The Ultimate Fighter” I shoot a target every time they bleep out a cuss word. If you’ve watched TUF, you know how challenging that can make the drill :)

      • Ronald Waling
        3 months ago

        You should try Hells Kitchen in this case!

  4. Great Grey
    2 years ago

    For most people the 21 foot rule is probably closer to 30 feet.

  5. Whome
    1 year ago

    1. Know what is around you at all times. And I mean all around you.
    2. Be ready at all times when you are out.
    3. If, IF you must use you gun to shoot someone. Make the first shot count.
    When the police come. Have your gun put away. Hands out in front of you. DO NOT MOVE.
    Give them your name. And say. I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.
    If you use your gun. Never talk to the police with out a Lawyer with you.
    All your training and all. It can go right out the front door.
    Be safe all.

  6. Dano
    1 year ago

    The information given here provides to keep you and your family-associates-team members alive and out of the jurisdiction of the courts. The best outcome of a lethal force encounter is to recognize it and remove yourself from it. If however you cannot, then the principals of PRACTICE from all angles (sitting, kneeling , in a vehicle, on your backside on the ground) should be so ingrained in your PRACTICE that they are thoughtless and occur without any deliberation. Avoidance is key. Then no mercy. Only stopping the threat. With whatever it takes to do so. Thank you for these important thought processes. Stay safe and PRACTICE.

  7. Dave
    1 year ago

    You speak with much wisdom.

  8. Rob
    1 year ago

    You are so right, you have got to practice or your hard earned money you paid to attend the high end school just went down the tubes. The big thing with shooting is it is a perishable skill which will degrade with time unless you keep them up. That is not to say you do not want to attend other classes. Even though you have taken X many classes you would be surprised how much you can learn just by attending the same type class taught by a different instructor. It is the instructor and sometimes who is in your class which make the class. Then it is you responsibility to take that information and put it into play.

    The 21 foot “rule” is kind of a misnomer. This was developed by Dennis Tueller on an indoor range. I was in one of his classes and he told us it was not his intent to develop a “rule”. It was one of those hey lets try this moments and it grew from there. The 21 foot distance was the seven yard-line. It was never meant to be written in stone. Remember this was developed under ideal conditions. The attacker was not high on dope. The shooter wasn’t out of breath from running or fighting or both. You mentioned drawing a weapon in 1-4 seconds, which a person can cover a lot of ground during that time.

    • Ox
      1 year ago

      Thanks, Rob. I’m a big fan of Tueller and how his quick drill at the end of a training day has opened the eyes of thousands of shooters to just how HUGE the reactionary gap is. I don’t know how many good shoots his “rule” has helped justify in a court of law, but I know that there are good people sleeping in their own beds instead of a jail because of it. It’s not his fault that his specific (valuable) drill got turned into an all-encompassing “rule”.

      People want simple, soundbite answers to complicated questions regarding emotionally charged, rapidly evolving situations and this is just one of many examples of where a great, sound concept can be twisted.

  9. Old Soldier
    1 year ago

    Thank God I never had to do it but my intent was always to feed the weak hand to the knife, if neccessary, while getting a shot or my blade in.

  10. Dodger
    3 months ago

    “It becomes a conditioned response that bypasses the parts of the brain that are most paralyzed in extreme stress situations.”

    I know this is an accurate statement from experience. After graduating from one police academy in 1970, where I was taught to draw & shoot “from the hip”. I moved up to a different, higher paying city after two years at the first. There, I was required to attend another academy, where I was taught to draw and shoot from a crouched position with weapon at eye level. After 5 years in the new job, one night I was attacked by a knife wielding perpetrator inside a fenced area. He rush at me, knife extended, from about 5 feet away. Instinctively, I began back-peddling while drawing my weapon and, within approximately 5-7 seconds after he began charging at me, I fired 3 shots which took him down.

    The point here is that, under pressure and seven years removed from the training I received at that first academy, and after all the training and practice in the five years since attending the second academy, I instinctively reverted back to the original training I had received and fired from the hip, hitting the assailant with all 3 rounds in what we used to call the “K-5” or “kill zone”. The line quoted above is exactly correct.

  11. Peyton Quinn
    3 months ago

    I have retired fro 35 years of teaching firearms through adrenal stress, scenario based training. The people I trained for the first 17 years were spec ops people, SEALS, GB, some LEO’s too.

    But when I began to open classes to civilians and DEA and ordinary citizens I was taken aback at the abysmal training they came with from the “top’4 shooting schools in NV and TX etc.

    They came in with good gun safety skills and discipline I acknowledge and reasonable good marksmanship, but no practical training at all in using a gun under stress on real moving talking human being.

    Once the guy came out, lightly padded so the low velocity rubber bullets (about 160 fps) and woofed on them or said “You better give me your wallet MF or your dead right now scum sucker”, well most all them almost went into shock and fumbled their handgun sometime dropping it to the mat by accident.

    Others would stupidly go for their gun when the bad guy had his out, cocked and already pointed at their head. Nothing they learned at those ‘big name schools’ (that have you bring 1000 rounds of your own ammo too) had prepared them at all for reality based, adrenal stress training.

    So how much less were they prepared for an actual potential shooting incident? To be frank, I’d guess for some of them I’d say they were less prepared than before they took those other courses and shot those quick and tight groups on paper.

    The other poster was right about the 27 foot rule too, for most people it is actually closer to 30 or 40 feet for most.

    Our car jacking scenario, using a real car etc, allowed them to discover they could not even draw their waist gun from a sitting position.

    It is better to let them discover their ‘plan’ won’t work first before trying to show and practice them a solution that does.

    I found out years ago. Some also discover after all their training in ‘gun safety’ they could not draw a pistol, point it at another human being and pull the trigger. If they hesitate to do that in training, what chance do they have in the real world? Most likely zero chance.

    I know what this may sound like but I do not really care either. If your training does not involve real adrenal stress and using your weapon in that biochemical state then it was not training that is at all likely to help you in a real crisis.

    What is training for?

    It is to as closely simulate what you must do in the real deal right? So you have PRACTICED it beforehand and realistically before yo face the actual crisis. If you agree that then think on this simple relaity. What is the thing never practiced even once at the ‘big gun schools” that is the very thing you must do in a crisis to use your gun to save your life or a family members?

    Well it is the act of drawing the gun, pointing it at the threat and pull the trigger as many times as it takes to neutralize that threat.

    By the way in real deal with someone firing at you and muzzle flash your way, well you can’t even know the weapon has sights all you can do if you keep your head is drop and point it, pull the trigger and fire at the enemy. Your brain (amygdala non self aware Frog Brain) takes over in any ‘ life or death’ (fight or flight) situation and it won’t allow you to look or see anything but the guy trying to kill you. That adrenal pump though,truly can with proper training be exactly what can save your life in such a crisis though.

    Without adrenal training most people will hesitate, have total auditory exclusion, tunnel vision and loss of all fine motor control and that will hamper their effective and immediate response.

    But once they train realistically and under such a full adrenal complex, where their hearing shuts off, they see faster (Tachi Psyche) and do not feel pain then all they can do in a real crisis in allow that adrenaline dump to instantly cue up and execute the needed and effective response.

    A secondary problem with most gun training is people seem to think you shoot a guy once or few times and he will fall down.

    That is a myth seldom even engaged in most any gun course. Most times handgun bullets will not stop a person at once, that is real fast if at all. There is no medical reason handgun bullets should effect an instant stop either (most times by far).

    No matter what caliber, only bullets that enter the braincase or his the heart’s left ventricle will, or may, stop a person nearly immediately.

    Handguns of any caliber really are rather light weapon to stop an animal as large and determined as a man trying to kill you.

    In the scores and scores of homicides I have studied in detail my view–or OK, suspicion might be more accurate here is–that when shot the bad guys stop because they do not want to be shot again. And not because they can’t physically continue the attack.

    • Ox
      3 months ago

      Thanks, always, Peyton!

    • Ron
      3 months ago

      Thanks Peyton, there is certainly much food for thought here. In September I will be attending Front Sight and will try to keep these pointers in mind.
      My problem is that I am 70 yrs old and can’t do many of the physical things talked about by most on line instructors.

  12. left coast chuck
    3 months ago

    I have recently started concentrating on “weak hand” shooting. I was greatly surprised and disappointed to find out just how weak my “weak hand” was in relation to cycling the action on a double action revolver. I now make it a practice to dry fire with my weak hand to exhaustion at least two cycles each night and if I can squeeze it in, three cycles. In just two weeks I have noticed a significant improvement. Even cocking the hammer and cycling the action was a revelation. I couldn’t afford to spend range time and the money on ammunition for the amount of time I can practice dry firing. If I spent 3 hours a night (don’t want to travel back and forth between sessions) and $100 a night on ammo, I wouldn’t have to worry about protecting my wife, I would be more concerned with answering the summons and complaint in divorce court. I heartily recommend dry fire practice. In three ten minute sessions a night you can accomplish as much as a three hour session at the range (counting travel time).

    • Ox
      3 months ago

      Thanks, Chuck! Always good to hear from you.

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